Saturday, 31 December 2011

Film Review: "Tower Heist" (2011).

The film's tagline reads "It's not just a robbery. It's payback". Which is precisely the plan in Tower Heist. This heist comedy film directed by Brett Ratner; written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson; based on a story by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Griffin. The film follows Josh Kovaks, Charlie Gibbs and Enrique Dev'reaux, employees of an exclusive apartment building who lose their pensions in the Ponzi scheme of Wall Street businessman Arthur Shaw. The group enlist the aid of criminal Slide, bankrupt businessman Mr. Fitzhugh and another employee of the apartment building, Odessa, to break into Shaw's apartment and steal back their money while avoiding the FBI agent in charge of his case, Claire Denham.

Tower Heist began development as early as 2005, based on an idea by Murphy, who first pitched it to both director Brett Ratner and Brian Grazer years before the project was finally launched, that would star himself and an all-black cast of comedians as a heist group who rob Trump Plaza. As the script developed and changed into an Ocean's Eleven–style caper, with Murphy and Chris Rock both considered for the leading roles in this film at one point. Chris Tucker and Dave Chappelle were also in talks for roles at this stage. However, Murphy left the project. Ratner continued to develop the idea into what would eventually become Tower Heist, with Murphy later rejoining the production in a supporting role. Filming took place entirely in New York City on a budget of $75 million (after tax rebates), with several buildings provided by Donald Trump used to represent the eponymous tower. For the art of safe cracking, the producers hired a professional safe cracker, eight time world champion Jeff Sitar, to work with the props master to set up the dial lock for the safe cracking scene and coach Gabourey Sidibe on how to use a safe cracker's listening device and work the dial to crack the safe.

The film stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña and Gabourey Sidibe. The cast gave hilarious performances despite lingering on borderline predictable and formulaic archetypes of the genre. Comical as they may be, they didn't exactly bring anything new to the table. However, they managed to coast on the palpable chemistry amongst themselves.

Tower Heist is not a kick-ass addition to the comedy-heist film genre nor to Brett Ratner's career. It's a lightweight, but somewhat enjoyable heist movie elevated by its stars. The film is a frankly formulaic but raucously entertaining action comedy. It's not exactly heist fun amidst the break-ins, goofy characters, and flat comical relief. The action and stunt scenes are not on a par with those in Ratner's Rush Hour films. The film is a by-the-book comedy-heist film. This is a weakly scripted parade of set-pieces which aren't as exciting as the Rush Hour films. How sad that the once potentially good Brett Ratner is presumed to need to make thiese kinds of dumbed-down movies.

Simon says Tower Heist receives:

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Film Review: "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (2011)

The film’s tagline reads "No Plan. No Backup. No Choice." Which is what’s happening this time round for Ethan Hunt and his crew from IMF in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. This action spy film directed by Brad Bird. It is the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible series. Ghost Protocol is set when the IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.

The film stars Tom Cruise reprising his role as iconic agent Ethan Hunt with a cracking team that includes: Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, IMF Secretary's chief analyst and former IMF field agent, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, an IMF technical field agent, Paula Patton as Jane Carter, and Michael Nyqvist as Kurt Hendricks, a Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist and the film's primary antagonist, Léa Seydoux as Sabine Moreau, a French assassin for hire and Tom Wilkinson as an IMF Secretary. The cast gave thrilling performances thank to the solid script and genius direction of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant (1999) The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007)). Cruise gave another thrilling performance as Hunt despite my minor reservation about his age and ability to top the last film. If there are any more future installments, let’s see how well he holds up. Renner gave an intense performance. Pegg gave a humorous performance. Like his role in Star Trek (2009), Pegg provided comical relief, despite the other characters having a little more humor than the last films, even in the most intense scenes. Patton gave a physically intense performance, she was able to bring so much in that particular department alone. Nyqvist gave a brilliant performance despite his role being much smaller than I imagined. This also goes to Seydoux and Wilkinson. Despite giving fantastic performances, they were unfortunately given very minor roles and were ultimately cut too short.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a gratifyingly clever, booby-trapped thriller that has enough fun and imagination and dash to more than justify its existence. The film still presents the same business as usual, but it's the best kind of business as usual, and it finds everyone working in top form. Sure it's all poppycock, but it's done with such vim and vigor and both narrative and visual flair that you care not a jot, thanks to Bird’s genius direction. It has an inspired middle-hour pumped by some solid action. We now live in a post-Bourne, recalibrated-Bond universe, where Ethan Hunt looks as though he is on track to getting where these franchises are at. To conclude, if you want to see intelligent action and computer-generated sequences executed with breakneck speed and technical precision, then go see this film. I am getting to the point where I don't much care about whether or not this film will deliver, because it does. The plot in this film hangs together better than the other three films in the series.

Simon says Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol receives:

Monday, 12 December 2011

Film Review: "Puss in Boots" (2011).

"My thirst for adventure will never be quenched!"
And that's the heart of Puss in Boots. This computer-animated fantasy action comedy film directed by Chris Miller, written by Tom Wheeler and produced by DreamWorks Animation.Years before meeting Shrek and Donkey, the adorable but tricky Puss in Boots must clear his name from all charges making him a wanted fugitive. While trying to steal magic beans from the infamous criminals Jack and Jill, the hero crosses paths with his female match, Kitty Softpaws, who leads Puss to his old friend, but now enemy, Humpty Dumpty. Memories of friendship and betrayal enlarges Puss' doubt, but he eventually agrees to help the egg get the magic beans. Together, the three plan to steal the beans, get to the Giant's castle, nab the golden goose, and clear Puss' name.

Although the character of Puss in Boots originated in a European fairy tale in 1697, the film is a spin-off prequel to the Shrek franchise. It follows the character Puss in Boots on his adventures before his first appearance in Shrek 2 (2004). The film had been in development since 2004, when Shrek 2 was released. As a Shrek 2 spin-off, it was initially planned for release in 2008 as a direct-to-video film, then titled Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer. By October 2006, the film was re-slated as a theatrical release due to market conditions, and due to DreamWorks Animation's realization that the Puss character deserved more. In September 2010, Guillermo del Toro signed on as executive producer. A conscious decision was made to make the world of Puss in Boots very different from that depicted in the Shrek films. In the latter, the backgrounds and stylizations are very fairy tale. Here, it has a distinctly Spanish feel with warmer, more orange colors.

It stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Seders. The cast gave entertaining performances, with each giving their own unique personalities. Banderas giving his suave Spanish charm. Hayek giving her seductive charm and Galifianakis giving his outrageous comedic flare. Despite this, it does not live up to the original personalities in the Shrek films.

Puss in Boots is fast and brightly colored enough to entertain small children, but too frantically silly to offer real filmgoing fun for the whole family. While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be somewhat exhilarating. Granted, it's no classic, but a sassy script and good-natured voice work from Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Zack Galifianakis should keep kids entertained. Frenetic and frequently funny, the movie represents the DreamWorks Animation franchise style – which boils down to self-aware, but naïve, talking animals who learn kid-friendly life lessons – at its most palatable. The lack of originality is offset by sheer silliness, including Classified and Skipper's Abbott and Costello-style argument over whether there's a long I in 'diversion.' The word fits the movie.

Simon says Puss in Boots receives:

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Film Review: "Contagion" (2011)

The film’s taglines such as "The world goes viral September 9" and "Nothing spreads like fear" sums perfectly what Contagion brings to a theatre near you. This Medical Disaster Thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh. Contagion follows the rapid progress of a lethal indirect contact transmission virus (Fomite Transmission) that kills within days. As the fast-moving pandemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than does the virus itself. As the virus spreads around the world, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

T. S. Elliot once wrote, "This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper," Soderbergh was motivated to make an "ultra-realistic" film about the public health and scientific response to a pandemic. The movie touches on a variety of themes, including the factors which drive mass panic and loss of social order, the scientific process for characterizing and containing a novel pathogen, balancing personal motives against professional responsibilities and rules in the face of an existential threat, the limitations and consequences of public health responses, and the pervasiveness of interpersonal connections which can serve as vectors to spread disease. Soderbergh acknowledged the salience of these post-apocalyptic themes is heightened by reactions to the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. As filmmakers J. J. Abrams and Matt Reeves acknowledged the September 11 attacks in their disaster film Cloverfield (2008), where the film's central monstrous antagonist personified the September 11 attacks itself. The movie was intended to realistically convey the "intense" and "unnerving" social and scientific reactions to a pandemic.

Like an Irwin Allen disaster flick (The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974)), the film featured an A-list ensemble cast that included Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, and Bryan Cranston. Despite the cast giving strong performances, it was an engaging or even relatable. My good friend and colleague, Kelly Ryu, once told me that the film would have been more realistic if Soderbergh cast unknowns rather than well recognizable actors for the roles. Then the whole film would been more realistic, more terrifying, more well received and the film would have catapulted the unknowns to stardom. A film that did this so well was, once again, the monster-disaster epic Cloverfield, which all starred unknowns.

Contagion is splendid entertainment that will get you worried about whether they'll be able to contain that strange virus. The movie's craft makes the dread of a killer virus contagious: viewers may feel they have come down with a case of secondhand SARS or sympathetic monkeypox. Heedlessly derivative though it may be, the film what it sets out to do and then some -- scare us out of our wits, then get us to apply those wits to an uncommonly intelligent and provocative disaster flick. What also makes it effective, and sets it apart from other thrillers, is that it makes you care about the characters.

Simon says Contagion receives:

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Special Film Review: NZSO Presents "Metropolis" (1927) Featuring Live Orchestra (2011)

Quotes such as "There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator", are embedded into our minds forever and whenever it is mentioned, we think of Metropolis. This 1927 German Expressionist, Science-Fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. Seet in a futuristic urban dystopian city in the year 2026, it explores the social crisis between workers and owners inherent in capitalism, as expressed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class, who live in poor conditions but are the basic force for the city's work, and the upper class, which is mainly integrated by the city planners and their families, two persons from each class fall in love with each other. One of them is a working class prohet, a woman who gives hope to the city's workers. She predicts the coming of a savior, a savior who will mediate the differences between the social groups and give the city the start of new era. The other is the son of the city's mastermind. But the prophet is kidnapped by a crazy inventor, who wants to use her to make a robot work. The robot is given the same physical appearence the prophet has. Following orders from the crazy inventor, the robot creates a lot of problems for the working class. The son of the city's mastermind and the prophet will have to stop the robot and its crazy inventor for creating more problems for Metropolis, and achieve the goal of making Metropolis an harmonius place.

Metropolis was conceived by writer and collaborator Thea von Harbou during the Weimar Period in Germany. Originally it serialized as a novel in Illustriertes Blatt, for the purpose to sell it as a film up to its release, before ultimately released as a book and thus written as a screenplay. The novel in turn drew inspiration from H. G. Wells, Shelley and Villiers d'Isle Adam's works and other German dramas. Harbou and Lang collaborated on the screenplay derived from the novel, and several plot points and thematic elements — including most of the references to magic and occultism present in the novel — were dropped. The screenplay itself went through many re-writes, and at one point featured an ending where Freder would have flown to the stars; this plot element later became the basis for Lang's Woman in the Moon (1929). Principle photography for Metropolis was delayed again and again due to budgetary and economical factors. Filming ultimately began in May 1925 with a reported budget of five million Reichsmarks (U.S. $200 million today). Which made it the most expensive film at that time. Shooting took place at Babelsberg Studios outside of Berlin. Shooting lasted for seventeen months, and was finally completed in October 1926. Metropolis had its premiere at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin on January 10th 1927, where the audience reacted to several of the film's most spectacular scenes with "spontaneous applause". But was ultimately met with mixed reviews from critics. Who were all willing to bet that in 20 years time that it would not become a major success. Lang even commented with his displeasure of the film "The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou's, but I am at least 50 percent responsible because I did it. I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that's a fairy tale – definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn't like the picture – thought it was silly and stupid – then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It's very hard to talk about pictures—should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?"

Since its release, Metropolis has become one of the most influential films of all time. As it was the last German Expressionist film to come out of the hyperinflation period of the Weimar Republic. Inaddition, it has since become a cult classic and inspired films such as George Lucas' THX-1138 (1971) and Star Wars (1977), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990) and his Batman films (1989 and 1992), and Alex Proyas' The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998). The character of the robot inspired the iconic design of C-3PO and the character of Edward Scissorhands, and the aesthetic of the cityscapes in the film inspired the various cities ranging from Blade Runner to Dark City. During the years since the first release, Metropolis existed as a bizarrely fragmented and mangled version of the original work. But in 2008, it was painstakingly restored with additional footage from the New Zealand Film Archive. The film's music was recreated by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frank Strobel.

Metropolis is extraordinary with its congested-megalopolis sets and is a visionary sci-fi movie that has its own look that can't be ignored – it has its place in film history. Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Fritz Lang's mysterious, sci-fi has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece. When I watched the film, with its live orchestral performance by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall, I felt that I had a sensational night at the movies, and the picture was only 84 years old. It proves still that it is a technical marvel. One of the great achievements of the silent era and German cinema, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made. Each frame of this classic is drop-dead stunning. One of the last examples of the imaginative -- but often monstrous -- grandeur of the Golden Period of the German film, it is a spectacular example of Expressionist design.

Simon says Metropolis receives:

See photos of the show below

Monday, 31 October 2011

Film Review: "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World" (2011).

The movie's tagline reads "Saving the world is their idea of family time" and that's all there is to it with Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. This 4D science fiction fantasy action comedy adventure film directed by Robert Rodriguez and it is the fourth installment in the Spy Kids film series. It is a sequel to 2003's Game Over. A retired spy is called back into action, and to bond with her new step-children, she invites them along for the adventure to stop the evil Timekeeper from taking over the world.

Rodriguez was prompted by an incident on the set of Machete (2010) to start envisioning a fourth film in the Spy Kids series. Star Jessica Alba had her then-one year old baby Honor Marie and was dressed to appear on camera when her baby's diaper "exploded". Watching Alba change the diaper while trying not to get anything on her clothes prompted Rodriguez to think "What about a spy mom?" Production on the film was officially announced on September 25, 2009, six years after the release of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, by Dimension Films. The script for the film was completed by Rodriguez in December 2009. The title for the film was officially revealed as Spy Kids: All the Time in the World on March 24, 2010 as well as an August 2011 release window, which was later updated to an August 19, 2011 release date. Filming began on October 27, 2010. It is the first of the series that uses "Aroma-scope" that allows people to smell odors and aromas from the film via scratch & sniff cards (reminiscent of the infamous 1960s Smell-O-Vision) last used theatrically in the 2003 animated film Rugrats Go Wild.

The film stars Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Ricky Gervais, and Jeremy Piven in a dual role. The cast all gave uninspiring characters and just gave some of the silliest performances ever put to the silver screen. END... OF... STORY!

All the Time in the World will be found wanting if one is not taken in by the 3-D visuals. The 3-D process will hurt your eyes. It's murky and purple like a window smeared with grape jell-o. However, it helped mask what I deemed as an overall lack of a story. The plot is twig-thin and the parents' absurd adventure in the story makes Rodriguez's continuing theme of family ties seem much less resonant than in the other films. Kids will love it, but adults may find it flat. Watching in 3-D is annoying and watching in 2-D is pointless. Kind of a losing situation. It's a loser in any dimension. As if last one wasn't bad enough, Rodriguez gives us this latest instalment. Where Rodriguez falls short is when he relies on the computer generated special effects to make up for problems in the script. In the end, it's a movie so awful that those headaches spurred by the film's shoddy optics effects seem minor by comparison.

Simon says Spy Kids: All the Time in the World receives:

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Film Review: "In Time" (2011).

"The rich can live forever, the poor must earn for more time"
, this tagline describes the essence of In Time perfectly. This dystopian science fiction thriller film written, directed, and produced by Andrew Niccol and starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy that takes place in a society where people stop aging at 25 and each has a clock on their arm that counts down how long they have to live.

Before the film was titled In Time, the names Now and I'm.mortal were originally considered and were eventually used as working titles. In July 2010, it was reported that Amanda Seyfried had been offered a lead role. In July 2010, it was confirmed that Justin Timberlake had been offered a lead role. In August 2010, Cillian Murphy was confirmed to have joined the cast. In a movie about people who would stop aging at 25 years old, many of the actors, including Murphy and Timberlake, were in their late 20s and early 30s. Seyfried, however, really was 25 years old during filming. In addition, Timberlake is three years older than Olivia Wilde who plays his mother. In an interview with Kristopher Tapley of Roger Deakins stated that he would be shooting the film in digital, which makes this the first film to be shot in digital by the veteran cinematographer. The use of future retro is one of many elements that the film seems to share with Niccol's earlier work, Gattaca (1997). The earlier work also features electrically powered vintage cars (notably a Rover P6 and again, a Citroën DS), as well as buildings of indeterminate age. Gattaca also deals with innate inequalities (though in its case genetic, rather than longevity) and the film's protagonist also seeks to cross the divide that his birthright is supposed to deny him. Similarly, he is pursued by law enforcement officers after being wrongly identified as having committed a murder.

The film stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer and Johnny Galecki. Not only did the cast bring nothing to the table in terms of communicating the director's themes and commentary, but they also had no personality or likability whatsoever to make us care about their conflicts, struggles and their fight to remain young forever. In addition, they are nothing more than eye candy for audience to swoon over.

In Time is chilly, elegant, and a little bloodless. Designer models inhabit a dystopia in a stylish SF thriller filled with recycled plot devices. The satire in the film lacks bite, and the plot isn't believable enough to feel relevant. It fails on all points of plot, characterisation, plausibility and realism. If you're expecting a scathing commentary on our youth obsessed times, then this film isn't it. If you're expecting a riveting entertainment, then the film isn't it either. Not only has the filmmaker who brought us Gattaca elected to address some extremely well worn themes, he evidently has little new to say about them.

Simon says In Time receives:

Monday, 24 October 2011

Film Review: "The Thing" (2011).

The film's tagline reads "It's not human. Yet." This is what it's all about in this untold prequel story of the horror classic The Thing. This science fiction horror film directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr, adapted by Eric Heisserer based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. It is a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter. At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft buried deep in the ice leads to a confrontation between a team of Norwegian, led by Dr. Sander Halvorson, and American scientists, led by graduate student Kate Lloyd, to realize too late that it is still alive.

After creating the Dawn of the Dead (2004), producers Marc Abraham and Eric Newman began to look through the Universal Studios library to find new properties to work on. Upon finding John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, the two convinced Universal to create a prequel instead of a remake, as they felt that remaking Carpenter's film would be like "paint(ing) a moustache on the Mona Lisa". Eric Newman explained; "I'd be the first to say no one should ever try to do Jaws again and I certainly wouldn't want to see anyone remake The Exorcist... And we really felt the same way about The Thing. It's a great film. But once we realized there was a new story to tell, with the same characters and the same world, but from a very different point of view, we took it as a challenge. It's the story about the guys who are just ghosts in Carpenter's movie - they're already dead. But having Universal give us a chance to tell their story was irresistible." In early 2009, Variety reported the launch of a project to film a prequel—possibly following MacReady's brother during the events leading up to the opening moments of the 1982 film—with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. as director and Ronald D. Moore as writer.

The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Eric Christian Olsen. The cast, though a relatively big ensemble, did not give performances worthy of the original. Winstead unfortunately, most of all, was resorted to a role that spent of her time talking and running. Lacking the qualities presented by Kurt Russell in the original.

The Thing is full of blood and gore, and over the top special effects. But not enough scares or a coherent backstory story to make for a successful prequel to the famous 1982 horror film classic. Cliche, boring and repedetive, the film is an unsavoury exercise in Hollywood's unoriginal market of Horror brands that one hopes never to see. The story's been played in cinema God knows how many times now. It just makes me absolutely sick to my stomach and soul. Much less of a straight forward prequel, and much more a remake of a remake. In conclusion, attention horror fans: Demand more original scares from Hollywood than this pro forma return to the well. Has horror cinema ever been this dull?

Simon says The Thing receives:

Friday, 21 October 2011

Film Review: "Johnny English: Reborn." (2011)

"'Johnny English. Five years ago he was our top agent.' 'Yeah. Took his eye off the ball in Mozambique.' 'Does it have to be him?' 'He's the only one our contact will talk to.' 'So where is he?'" Which is someone we didn’t expect to return, but he has in Johnny English: Reborn. This British Spy Comedy parody directed by Oliver Parker. The film is the sequel to Johnny English (2003). Five years after the previous film, Johnny English is called back to MI7 to undercover a group of international assassins known as 'Vortex', before they kill the Chinese premier and cause global chaos. However he is not alone. He is aided by his 'rookie' sidekick Tucker and his new love interest Kate Summers, MI7's behavioural psychologist.

The film stars Rowan Atkinson, reprising his role as the title character. As well as Rosamund Pike as Kate Sumner, MI7's behavioural psychologist and English's love interest, Daniel Kaluuya as Agent Colin Tucker, English's smart, youthful sidekick, Gillian Anderson as MI7 Head Pamela Thornton, codenamed as Pegasus, the new boss at MI7, and Dominic West as Simon Ambrose, the main antagonist. The cast may not have given the best performances but it was performances that were hilarious. Atkinson gave another hilarious performance after many other iconic performances such as Blackadder and Mr. Bean. Despite the jokes not being as fresh as his other comedies nor the first film. Atkinson's performance also reminded me of Don Adams' performance on the hit comedy TV series of Get Smart and Peter Sellers' bumbling character of Inspector Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther films. Pike gave a subtle performance as English’s love interest, however I felt that her chemistry with Atkinson did not spark. Kaluuya, like Atkinson, also gave a hilarious performance who always seems to correct Atkinson most of the time. Which compliments Atkinson’s performance. Anderson gave a more contrasted performance to Atkinson, despite leaving behind moments of very dry humor. West gave a suave performance as the film’s antagonist, however no matter how smooth he operates, he proved no real threat to Atkinson nor to the audience. By far, one of the least threatening villains ever.

Johnny English: Reborn is, like its predecessor, a tame spy spoof that elicits infrequent chuckles. A funny summer frolic. However, it doesn't so much try to send up other spy films as it tries to one-up its own predecessor in this second go-round. By the end, Spy recycles its own gags, not just ones from the first movie. It’s a rehash of the same story with new cast members and new takes on familiar jokes. While it lives up to the very definition of 'hit and miss', the parts that hit are very funny. You won't die laughing in the theater, but the filmmakers aren't asking you to, as they do in the frantic, adolescent comedies that dominate the market. It's a pleasure.

Simon says Johnny English: Reborn receives:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Film Review: "Real Steel" (2011)

One of the film’s tagline reads "Champions aren't born. They're made." This sums up the premise of Real Steel. This Science Fiction film directed by Shawn Levy, based on the 1956 short story Steel by Richard Matheson and adapted by John Gatins. Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he's found a champion in a discarded robot named Atom. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father.

The short story was originally adapted by Dan Gilroy and was purchased by DreamWorks for $850,000 between 2003 and 2005. The project was one of 17 that DreamWorks took from Paramount Pictures when they split in 2008. Director Peter Berg expressed interest in the project in mid-2009 but ultimately dropped out. Levy was attached to the project in September 2009, and Jackman was cast in November. In the same month, Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider at DreamWorks greenlit the project. Les Bohem and Jeremy Leven reworked Gilroy's screenplay, but in 2009 John Gatins worked on a new draft. When Levy joined the project, he worked with Gatins to revise the screenplay, spending a total of six weeks fine-tuning the script. With a budget of $110 million, filming began in June 2010 and ended in October. The animatronic robots were created by Legacy Effects, and the computer effects were done by Industrial Light & Magic.

The film stars Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo and Evangeline Lilly. The cast performance gave terrific performances. Jackman was outstanding as the charisma driven, stubborn Charlie Kenton. For the role Jackson said that his father "was a boxer in the army and he wanted to make performance look good for his dad." Well I can say if I was his father, I would be impressed. Goyo gave a terrific performance as Max Kenton. He had a magical quality which made him the film's central heart and made him get as much or more spotlight than his co-star. Finally Lilly gave a fantastic performance as Bailey Tallet, the kind, compassionate voice of reson and love interest for Jackman’s Charlie. Lilly and Jackman had a near perfect relationship and chemistry that made me believe that these two characters had been friends for a long time. This quality is rarely seen or even considered by two actors when portraying relationships.

Real Steel, though innovative with its stunning robot fight scenes, is nothing more than pure 2000s make believe. The film’s plot is gimmicky, heavy-handed and cliché, all because of the direction of Shawn Levy, the man responsible for bringing us some of the most tawdry movies of recent years, such as the ridiculously awful Cheaper by the Dozen (2003). He has an instinct for making serious emotions look tawdry. While the film may look good now, but it will fade like every other one of his movies and every "Hollywood" movies ever made.

Simon says Real Steel receives: